Here, we’ll take a look at one area where each team in the Big 12 can expect to succeed, and another that needs improvement.
The Jayhawks' total pass defense wasn't terrible in 2009; they finished sixth in the conference in total yardage during conference games. But a parade of big plays helped Kansas drop its final seven games of the season. The defense also picked off just three passes in conference play, tied with Baylor for fewest of any team in the league.
Making matters worse is the departure of Darrell Stuckey, an All-Big 12 safety. Senior Phillip Strozier will try to replace the prospective NFLer, but shoring up the secondary will be key if Turner Gill wants to see success in his first season.
Strong: Running game
Sophomore running back Toben Opurum looks ready to break out in his second season after racking up 554 yards and nine touchdowns in limited duty as a freshman. Freshman Brandon Bourbon joins Opurum as a strong All-Name Team candidate and could also bring additional depth to the position. As a high school senior, he ran for 2,500 yards on just 196 carries for a ridiculous 12.7 yards per carry. The two could be a solid tandem to help out an uncertain quarterback situation.
Also encouraging for Kansas is it returns plenty on the offensive line, including senior center Jeremiah Hatch, a 6-foot-3, 311-pounder. Developing the running game as a reliable threat early in the season should accelerate the growth of whoever is behind center, whether its sophomore Kale Pick or JUCO transfer Quinn Mecham.
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